BABE #94: STEPHANIE ROBLE,
Professional Sailor @ Roble/Shea Sailing
I first met Steph at a J70 regatta in Rochester, NY. At the time, she was fresh out of an All-American sailing career and making waves in the match racing circuit. I geekily asked for her autograph and got a picture with her (which I may or may not have also set as my phone background). Fast forward a few years, a Rolex Yachtswoman Award, a few Championship titles, and an Olympic campaign later, Steph is still one of the fastest sailors on any race course, and the most genuine competitor on shore. We'll be following your trail to the 2020 Olympics Steph; you are one badass babe. -Mara
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many babes I admire! Anyone who is physically and mentally strong, has big goals, works hard and is passionate and gracious is a babe I admire. Some of my favorites are Lindsey Vonn (Alpine Ski Racer) Dawn Riley (Sailor,) and Katrin Davidsdotter (CrossFit Athlete).
How do you spend your free time?
When I find it, I love to cook and try new recipes, travel and explore new parts of town, bike ride, kiteboard, do yoga in the park, and hang out with my friends, family and boyfriend.
Go-to coffee order?
I cut out coffee for nearly three months and only drink it on the mornings when I'm extra tired. Being in Miami, though, I do love a Cuban coffee or a cortadito!
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Vince Lombardi. The guy is a legend. I would love to hear his advice, stories and thoughts.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
There are so many places I want to go. I would really love to roadtrip around New Zealand, ride the hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey, and adventure in the Galapagos Islands.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Weather and meteorology. I think they're fascinating and such important tools to have as a sailor.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I used to be on the pom squad back in high school. It definitely brought out my girly side, but I loved the hard work to perfect something and then perform in front of people.
Tell us about your hustle:
I am currently training to qualify our country and my team (myself and Maggie Shea) to compete in the Olympics and win a medal in the 49erFX Skiff Sailing Class for Team USA. In addition to Olympic sailing, I race professionally and do some coaching.
What does your typical workday look like?
A typical training day means waking up at 6:30, meditating and journaling. I usually do a 10 minute run with good music, come back and stretch, eat breakfast and food prep for the day, or I eat and food prep first and then go do a workout at a gym - it just depends on the location. Sometimes we review from the day before or hit any topics we want to talk about before sailing. Then we head to the boat park, rig the boat/do boatwork, eat lunch, launch, sail for 2-4 hours, de-rig the boat, debrief, eat dinner, check emails, and then go to sleep around 10-11.
When and how did you get into Sailing? How soon did you know you’d want to pursue the sport professionally?
I started sailing when I was 5 years-old on Lake Beulah, the lake that I grew up on in Wisconsin. At first I didn’t like it because it was quite intimidating being in a boat on your own and trying to understand something you cant see - the wind! However, I soon realized it was a fun way to spend time with friends and then discovered competing and winning, which kept me in the game.
What draws you to sailing and keeps you inspired to stay in the industry?
I absolutely love being on the water. Every tack, gybe, start, upwind beat is different. You have to be constantly adapting to what’s going on around you. I love the teamwork aspect of it and the challenge of constantly learning. I also love the feeling of being free on the water. Just you, your boat, your crew, the water and the wind.
How many working days do you spend on the water vs. traveling, coaching, etc.?
This year I will spend about 240 days sailing, another 20-40 days traveling, and some rest and family days built-in there somewhere.
How do you manage to coordinate event dates, regattas, and coaching opportunities?
It takes a lot of coordination between me and my crew. We have to balance adding in work, family, spouses, rest, and time at home to build strength. Sometimes the schedule works out perfectly, other times it doesn’t, and one or both of us has to make sacrifices to work toward the ultimate goal.
Similarly, do you have any advice for Babes who travel a lot for work?
Figure out what makes you feel at home on the road. I am super shameless with the amount of stuff I travel with. I bring all my resistance bands, heating pad, foam roller, pillow, blender, cooking knives, extra backpack, reusable bags, etc. Whatever it is that makes your day-to-day life easier, bring it. Also, being loyal to an airline helps with certain perks, like free bags and upgrades.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
I try not to think of it as being a female in a man’s world. I've been pushing hard against the guys since I was little, so I have no problem being on the playing field. You have to respect yourself, understand your limits, be a good teammate and be professional at all times. I don’t give the guys any room to disrespect me and I think that makes them respect me more. I’m not afraid to say "no" or "I can’t," although I will try my damn best to make it happen. Yes, it’s harder as a woman to go to the bathroom or maintain your hair when you're out on the water, but that’s about it in my mind!
What is the gender ratio like in the sailing world? Do you see it evolving?
It depends on what kind of sailing we're talking about. The Olympic sailing scene is quite equal, including a mixed-gender event. In professional sailing, female participation is quite low, and there are times when I'm the only woman on the course. In the Volvo Ocean Race it's evolving, since there are crew limit rules that favor bringing women on board. However the America’s Cup, aka the pinnacle of our sport, didn’t have a single female aboard any of the boats. There has definitely been an overall recognition lately that women aren’t on the scene as much as they should be, and there are a ton of women pushing for more women to get into the sport.
What do you think needs to happen to introduce more women to the professional realm of the sport?
I think there needs to be a push from both men and women. Men need to understand that women who have the desire and work ethic are completely capable of many of the jobs men do on the boat. And for the ladies, it is all about believing in yourself, working hard, and gaining respect. You have to create your own opportunities - they won’t come to you.
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
The first that comes to mind is that a lot of people think I row! It’s funny because they always say it with their arms going in a circle... like rowing. I would say a big misconception is that sailing isn’t a real sport. Most people visualize cruising. Sailing a 49erFX requires extreme athleticism, especially from the crew. Imagine doing a CrossFit workout with an unstable platform underneath you while trying to make decisions about the wind and the boats around you. That's sailing.
How do you stay in physical shape for your work? What kind of routine and/or diet does that entail?
Right now, we're just trying to sail as much as possible and are trying to get “boat fit.” The boat is pretty intense, and after four hours of training, we're toasted. Long term, we are working with a strength coach (Mike Kuschner with Opex,) who has a super holistic approach. He bases the workouts off of our schedule and when we can build strength, versus when we are tapering versus peaking in competition. He monitors diet, sleep, mental strength and physical strength. Right now, we are focusing on equalizing my strength side to side, endurance muscles (long workouts!) and quickness in my feet. My diet is paleo-inspired but sometimes on the road you don’t have a ton of options, so a big thing is just eating before you’re hungry. We are trying to gain weight!
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
I love the challenge of the sport. Every day is different on the water. Some days you nail it, and some days the conditions make your head spin. While I try not to think of the negatives, I would say a hard part of the job is all of the travel. I feel lucky if I get to be at home for a few days each month, or see my boyfriend for a few days after weeks of being apart.
What would you say is your biggest strength as a sailor?
I would say it's my desire to succeed. I will do whatever it takes - besides cheating or harming someone - to make success happen. I will make the necessary sacrifices, research, changes, et cetera, to reach a goal.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
I need to work on calming down mentally when something goes wrong. I’m a perfectionist, and little mistakes really annoy me. I tend to get mad at myself when I screw up, and it’s distracting. My crew and I have talked about it a lot, and are working on different methods to change it. I feel lucky to have my crew’s support and understanding.
What is your advice for younger sailors who want to pursue it as a future career?
Jump on any opportunities you can, whether it’s Wednesday night racing, the opportunity to umpire, match race or coach. The more you expand your sailing knowledge and experience, the better you'll be. Take time to remember why you are doing what you are doing. Is it because you like winning or because you like being around friends? Set yourself up to succeed based on why you are doing it.
What event or regatta do you aspire to win/participate in?
Winning a medal at the Olympics is something I wake up thinking about and go to sleep thinking about. It is on my mind constantly and I will work until I get it.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I am quite passionate about reducing human impact on oceans and lakes. Not a day goes by when sailing where I don’t see trash in the water. I want to spread awareness of what we can do as sailors to prevent this from happening and how we can help fix the problem. I am an ambassador for 11th Hour Racing and we are collaborating to come up with solutions.
What does success look like to you?
Being a well respected teammate and competitor, keeping consistent emotions, trusting the process, and producing consistent results.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
Every morning my coach sends me some questions that I journal about and then do some meditation and stretching. This helps me start each day on a positive note. At night, I love to read and listen to a podcast.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
Our wipeout stories are always good. We were in Holland in May and made our first medal race series (the top 10 race for overall places on a super short and confined race course). It was pretty windy and we were just sending it. On a spinnaker set, I somehow came unclipped from the trapeze wire and just started dragging behind the boat; still steering the boat no problem, but holding on and couldn’t pull myself back in. My crew finally pulled me in, and it took me a minute to reset and figure out where I was and what had happened!
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Be confident in what you want and tell yourself you're going to get it. Always ask questions. Don’t be scared to try something new. Don't be scared to lose. Never make the same mistake twice. Make mini goals and become better everyday. Fight hard and remember it’s not over until it’s over. Take time to reflect on your skills, performance and attitude.
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